Home > fang-test > Taiwan Research Programme > Events > Seminars > Seminar Series on Justice in Comparative Perspective > Police Governance: community, policing, and justice in the modern UK
How to contact us

Taiwan Research Programme
London School of Economics and Political Science
Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE


Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Dr Fang-Long Shih

Police Governance: community, policing, and justice in the modern UK

With Dr Chris A. Williams (Open University)

Series: Seminar on Taiwan in Comparative Perspective, special series on  Justice in Comparative Perspective

Date: Thursday 22 October 2009, 6pm-8pm

Venue: Seligman Library (Room A607), Old Building, London School of Economics (LSE)

Chair: Professor Stephan Feuchtwang (Taiwan Research Programme)


The British police have always had the advantage of their image as a predominantly non-violent force which policed by consent. In reality of course, this image has obscured a significant amount of violence, which was acceptable to the public at large because it mainly concerned marginalised individuals. Yet as the twentieth century witnessed an ever-greater revulsion against the use of violence in everyday life, police practice has come under increasing scrutiny. This paper will set the scene concerning the century as a whole, before contracting on a series of crises of legitimacy which occurred at its midpoint, and culminated in the 1960 Royal Commission on Policing. One of the key issues which led to this was the increasing extent to which low levels of casual violence by police, particularly towards working-class youths, had become less and less acceptable.

This paper examines the consequences of the legitimacy challenge which, I argue, had a two-stage effect. The first was to create an unprecedented degree of disconnect between police and the communities which they served in the 1980s - a problem exacerbated by racism and economic decline. The second, though, saw the police retreat from a highly technocratic and professionalised claim to be the entire masters in their own house, towards closer relationships with other public authorities, smaller tactical units, and a more accommodating attitude to the demands of the communities in which they found themselves. This stage is not entirely unproblematic, though, given that it entails a partial, often tacit, retreat from the ideal of equal treatment, and it remains vulnerable to criticism, often from within the police service itself.

About the speaker

Dr Chris A. Williams is a Lecturer in the History Department of the Open University, affiliated to the OU's International Centre for Comparative Criminological Research. He has published work on the history of policing in the UK which covers police reform and nineteenth-century urban history, the development and deployment of criminal statistics; the decline of autonomy of urban police forces in the twentieth century; and the early history of CCTV. His current research interests include the nature and extent of links between colonial and 'home' police in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the prevalence of private payment for policing in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; and the development and significance of the control room and police computing. He is also actively engaged in promoting the preservation of criminal justice records and artefacts, and both promoting and exploring their presentation to the wider public.